You’ve felt it, haven’t you? I know I have. One day, your heart is burning, your soul is on fire—you’re alive for God. Jesus is your great passion, and you have faith that you can be like those in Acts who were turning the world upside-down.
It’s a great mountain-top high. It’s a wonderful belief that you have significance and a calling. You have an eternal purpose.
But then comes a moment where the flame dwindles, and the fire fades to embers. You still feel a soft heat, but what can you do with that? It barely warms your fingers; how could it set the world on fire?
A counselor I know likes to speak about one’s emotional cup. The cup is how much we can handle in life, the good and the bad. When it’s filled with good, that’s when we feel most alive, most on fire. There’s room for the bad, too, but if we don’t process those things, heal from them, and recover, then they eventually push out our ability to do the good, and a whole lot of negative starts spilling from our lives.
It’s not a place we want to live, but it seems many of us do.
Sometimes, it’s one big thing that overflows us. One event causes a raging torrent, and we spill over. If its trauma is deep enough, it can be hard to recover. We know that. Grief processing takes time.
But what about the little things? The things that aren’t that big of a deal? A drop or two here, a thimble full there. We don’t think much of these, they’re small after all, but the drops add up if we don’t deal with them. Eventually one is a drop too many.
I think that’s where Timothy was when Paul wrote his second letter to his dear spiritual son. It doesn’t seem Timothy faced a significant event at Ephesus, but tiny drops here and there until one day his fire was mere embers.
This was no way to live, no way to minister.
Paul was firm with his son, yet gentle: “Rekindle the gift” (2 Timothy 1:6, CSB). This was a call to deal with the past and move toward the future with a fresh passion.
You’ve probably built a fire or seen one built at some point in your life. Sometimes, it takes time and patience to get it started (that might be its own spiritual lesson). Then, you enjoy the warmth of the flames, listening to the crackle and popping of the wood. Keep it tended, and it’s relatively easy to maintain.
But when you take a little nap and the fire fades to embers, it takes more.
On the one hand, you don’t have to start fresh (praise Jesus!), but you can’t just toss on another log. You grab some small sticks, maybe some twisted-up newspaper. You get it sparking and crackling. You wait until a flame forms, let it grow bigger, and then toss on a few more logs.
Firm, yet gentle.
Have you found yourself in a place where the flame has died? Were you once passionate about discipleship and missions, but now just chug (slog?) through the motions? Is it that you’ve just lost focus, or is your emotional cup overflowing?
Where do you begin to get that flame going again?
Remember the root of your faith. Paul spoke of the influence of Timothy’s mother and grandmother, those precious saints who discipled him to know Jesus and love others, as well as Paul’s own influence in Timothy’s life. Who is in your life that led you to faith and taught you as a child (spiritual or physical age)? Other than Jesus, they’re your greatest cheering section in the Great Hall of Faith. Listen to their voices as you again lift your eyes to Jesus.
And find an encourager—a Paul who walks before you, or a Barnabas who walks beside you, someone who can urge you along, a fellow pastor, a mentor, a friend.
But if the flame seems too hard to kindle or if your cup is at capacity or spilling over, then find a counselor as well, someone who can help you process, peel away the layers, and refocus your mind on Jesus.
Therefore, I remind you to rekindle the gift…
Mike Bergman is the pastor of a very normative church in small-town America. He is passionate about the weather, his family, foster care, and Jesus.